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Psychol Bull. 1991 Nov;110(3):379-91.

Reinforcement in applied settings: figuring out ahead of time what will work.

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Department of Psychology, Indiana University, Bloomington 47405.


This article reviews the practical value of conceptual attempts to specify the circumstances of reinforcement ahead of time. Improvements are traced from the transituational-reinforcer approach of Meehl (1950), through the probability-differential model of Premack (1959, 1965), to the response deprivation and disequilibrium approach (Timberlake, 1980, 1984; Timberlake & Allison, 1974). The application value of each approach is evaluated on the grounds of simplicity, accuracy, and adaptability. The article shows that the disequilibrium approach accounts for and extends current empirically driven techniques of reinforcement control and examines some of its limitations. The disequilibrium approach clarifies how current knowledge can be used to predict more accurately the circumstances of reinforcement and invites the collaboration of applied and basic research in its further development.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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